1. Don’t abandon us.
Yes, we know you had to leave the country for your job. Call us more often on the phone or via Skype. You will remember how we were always there for you when you needed us. Don’t let us become another statistic in that which says that half of the over 75s in the UK live alone with just the TV for company.
2. Look after us.
We had to look after you when you were ill, when you were upset, or when you grazed your knees while playing. Now that we are much more vulnerable, and liable to have not just aches and pains but major illnesses, pay us back in kind. Remember how you were taught to be responsible and do the chores? That helped you to become more resilient. You can do the same for us now by making sure that your responsibilities have not yet ended, regardless of physical distance. We don’t want a law passed, like in China, where children are legally obliged to look after their parents’ physical and mental needs. You don’t need a law because you still love us, just like we loved you all your life.
3. Work hard.
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt.
The work ethic was strong in our family. We worked hard and honestly and taught you the work ethics which you probably did not realize at the time. Now that you are working, teach your kids the same and never take short cuts by manipulating others, being lazy, or shunning hard work.
4. Watch your manners.
How many times did we complain about your table manners? That was just the beginning in teaching you to be a well-mannered kid. Nowadays, bad manners such as loud talking on the phone, not covering mouth or nose when coughing and sneezing, and not offering their seat on public transport are everywhere. The next time you see that elderly person standing, remember that s/he was once a parent!
5. Be grateful.
“The best way that I can express my gratitude to my parents is by showing how much I care for them, express how much I love them, and showing them how they influenced me as a son to be successful in all that I’m going to do in the future.” – Inno Martin, actor
How many times did we teach you to say thank you and to be grateful for all the blessings life gave you? We always knew that you were precious and remarkable, and we were so thankful for that too.
6. Help others.
Never forget how we taught you to give and pay it forward every single day. Each one of us has the capacity to brighten someone’s life. It is uplifting for the giver and the receiver. But the giver gets a greater sense of satisfaction and contentment.
7. Make allowances for our age.
When you come to visit, make a few adjustments in what you expect from us. We cannot move as quickly as forty years ago or remember everything! Think about when we had to teach you to eat, walk, read, and learn. Now, it’s your turn to be a little bit more patient.
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” – Proverbs 23:22
8. Stop fussing.
Don’t try and ruin our independence. It is the most precious gift we have. We too will learn from our mistakes in middle and old age. We allowed you to take the same risks and grow up when you were at school or going out on your first date. Just be there when we really do need you.
9. Remember our milestones.
We always remember your birthdays and anniversaries. A simple gesture and one that shows we still love and care for you, as always. Don’t forget to do the same for us. We are quite flexible — a note, message, text, or a call on Skype. But it does not always have to be a special event; messages out of the blue are even better!
10. Look after yourself.
As parents we taught you to stay well and be happy. We encouraged you to do sports and to avoid eating junk food. Never forget those principles and avoid the trap of poor diet or exercise habits and being stressed out at work. Martin Seligman, a great advocate of positive psychology, was right when he said that psychologists need to study what makes happy people happy.
11. Learn to forgive.
In one alarming survey, only 58% children who were estranged from their parents wanted to restore the relationship. There is a deeper rift and estrangement is just a way of never resolving the problem. If you have grown distant in every sense of the word, let us repair the bridges and allow us to end our lives in love. The only way forward is to resolve the issues, find common ground and to forgive. We never let you nurse a grievance when you were young because we wanted to be there for you.
12. We respect your privacy and maturity.
Lots of parents plague their grown up children with questions about their lifestyle, marital status, and even their weight! We respect your privacy and we are making the effort to follow Ruth Nemzoff’s advice in Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How To Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children. We just have one request: please help us to maintain our autonomy as long as our health and finances permit.
13. We are here for you.
My father would say, “They’re worse than when they were babies” when we ran into trouble at work or in relationships. But that exasperation was a mere cover for genuine love and concern. We need to show you that we are always on hand for advice and hope you will do the same for us.
14. Patience is needed.
When you live at home, you do not want to hear the same old mantras about tidiness and communication all over again. Living together again requires that privacy is respected on both sides and that economic factors are going to play a large role before you become autonomous. A much better plan is to work out how and when we expect you to achieve full adulthood responsibility.
15. Cherish the memories.
Our only goal now is that we can end our days being cherished by you, wherever you may be. We know that challenges of elder care, financial burdens, and failing health may be daunting, but the best memories are the time and laughter we enjoyed together.